The Feud That Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World

The Feud That Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World

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by Paul Robert Walker

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A lively and intriguing tale of the competition between two artists, culminating in the construction of the Duomo in Florence, this is also the story of a city on the verge of greatness, and the dawn of the Renaissance, when everything artistic would change.

Florence′s Duomo - the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral - is

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A lively and intriguing tale of the competition between two artists, culminating in the construction of the Duomo in Florence, this is also the story of a city on the verge of greatness, and the dawn of the Renaissance, when everything artistic would change.

Florence′s Duomo - the dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral - is one of the most enduring symbols of the Italian Renaissance, an equal in influence and fame to Leonardo and Michaelangelo′s works. It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the temperamental architect who rediscovered the techniques of mathematical perspective. He was the dome′s ′inventor′, whose secret methods for building remain a mystery as compelling to architects as Fermat′s Last Theorem once was to mathematicians. Yet Brunelleschi didn′t direct the construction of the dome alone. He was forced to share the commission with his arch-rival, the sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, whose ′Paradise Doors′ are also masterworks. This is the story of these two men - a tale of artistic genius and individual triumph.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Six hundred years ago, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi finished one and two in a contest to design the decorative bronze doors that now grace Florence's beloved Baptistry. Ghiberti, the youngest entrant, was the victor and subsequent recipient of many of the city's most sought-after projects. Wounded by his loss to the upstart Ghiberti, Brunelleschi (who was better educated and from a more respectable family than his rival) set out to reintroduce the glory of Antiquity in their age. Brunelleschi went on to design the dome that has long symbolized Florence's cityscape and succeeded in popularizing the return to the architectural vocabulary of Greece and Rome. Walker, author of various YA books and Every Day's a Miracle, contends (though too often he simply conjectures) that while fighting for architectural and sculptural commissions and fuming at one another, the two artists brought out the best in each other, their peers and subsequent generations. While that may be so, this book is hurt by the author's attempts to construct his imagined narrative without sufficient evidence to do so convincingly. Descriptions lacking originality and force (Brunelleschi's dome is "a vision of curving red tile and white marble perfection set against the pale blue Tuscan sky") and weak argumentation make this a disappointing popularization of the lives and work of two very talented men. (Dec. 1) Forecast: While Brunelleschi's Dome (2000) continues to do respectable numbers in paper, this book doesn't quite have the hook of the earlier one-the Baptistry doors, while beautiful, are not on the scale of the dome-though it concerns the same figures. The doors could shut fairly quickly here. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
The author of 20 books on subjects ranging from the Italian Renaissance to the American West, Walker here pairs off proto-architect Filippo Brunelleschi and doormaker Lorenzo Ghiberti in an often engaging version of Quattrocento Smackdown. Pitting the two masters against each other in the competition for the sculpted bronze doors of the baptistery, Walker re-creates the intrigues of 15th-century Florence as the young, possibly illegitimate Ghiberti walks away with the lucrative commission and creates one of the Western world's great pieces of art. Spurred by his loss to Ghiberti, Brunelleschi goes on to greater fame and even greater fortune as the architect of the dome for Florence's cathedral (and rediscovers linear perspective in his spare time). Though Brunelleschi and Ghiberti share billing in the title, Walker is clearly more enamored of the former, and the bulk of the story is his. Using an estimable cache of documentary materials and a supporting cast that includes the sculptor Donatello and the painter Masaccio, Walker makes a fine circumstantial case for an artistic feud. Whether such a "feud" really existed will never be known. Recommended for public libraries and young adult collections.-Martin R. Kalfatovic, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Drawing on a wealth of original source material and contemporary biographies, this engaging account introduces readers to rivals Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, the young geniuses whose artistic visions were the beginnings of the Renaissance in Florence. Their lives and works are the main topics of this book, but Walker also interweaves the stories of other famous individuals such as Donatello and the Medicis. He frequently speculates on motivations and activities that might have taken place during undocumented years but reminds readers that he is only offering logical conjectures. He makes note of past events that impacted Florentine life of the day, such as the plague, the Great Schism, and the Guelf/Ghibelline struggle. Use of anecdotes, particularly the tale of an elaborate practical joke, shows the human side of these masters. Eighteen black-and-white photographs, some full page, some very small, show the major works discussed in the text. Extensive source notes are included.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A convincing account of one of the defining moments in art and history. Walker offers no new or startling information, but his strength lies in his ability to flesh out the historical framework-while providing enough thoughtful speculation to keep both layman and expert entertained. He presents the two key figures in this drama in true human proportions, stripped of much of the accumulated mythology that has made them appear as unassailable giants in the cultural pantheon. Building upon the earliest biographical account, written several decades after the principals' deaths, Walker establishes the atmosphere of Florence at the beginning of the 15th century as a city-state on the verge of collapse from plague, famine, warfare, religious schism, high taxation, and economic stagnation. With such a backdrop, the Renaissance becomes less a rebirth than a first birth, when the first strains of humanism, individualism, and the artist-as-hero are heard. Lorenzo Ghiberti, the gifted sculptor who designed the panels for the bronze doors of Florence's famous Baptistery, and Filippo Brunelleschi, who later designed the cathedral's dome, are introduced as youthful competitors whose intense rivalry fueled the artistic developments of the next half-century, including emotive realism and the principles of mathematical perspective. Though the account becomes sidetracked at times, such as when the author presents an unnecessary enumeration of fellow artist Donatello's ancestors and a lengthy explanation of one of Brunelleschi's convoluted pranks, these digressions are more embellishments than distractions. Ultimately, the reader is presented with a rich tapestry woven from the tangle of influences whoseconvergence resulted in a seeing of "Man as an active participant in the Universe" and led to the prodigious flowering of the artistic, philosophic, and political movements of the next half-millennium. No research surprises, but a skillful and engrossing story of one of the watershed events in Western civilization. (8 pp. b&w photos, not seen)

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